“Which way d’ya wanna take?” “Highway. Got a cigarette?” He glanced at her.
“Oh, come off it Tim. It’s one cigarette.”
“In the glove box. Light one for me too, will ya?”
She drew out a packet of Marlboros and lit a cigarette with a plastic lighter she fished from the centre compartment of the dashboard. She passed it to him and lit one for herself, slipping her thongs off and kicking her bare legs up on to the dash. “I really appreciate you driving me home, Tim.”
“No worries.” He kept his eyes on the road, but found it difficult to ignore the pale skin flashing in his peripheral. He flicked the radio on. The highway was deserted.
“So how long’s it been?” She said finally, over the music and the hum of the engine.
She placed one slender hand on his thigh. “Since you know what.” He swallowed hard. “Look, Hannah, I…”
“Hey, I think we both know what’s going on here. Let’s not beat around the bush. We both know why you offered to give me a ride home.”
Her fingers began tracing the inner seam of his jeans. He shifted in his seat.
“Look, you don’t have to explain. I won’t judge you. It will be our secret.”
“I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.”
“Oh really?” She withdrew her hand, took a long drag from her cigarette then tossed it out of the window. It exploded in a mass of amber embers as it hit the road bouncing behind them. “So it would bother you if I did this?”
She swung her long legs off the dash, and in one smooth motion, pulled her halter neck top off over her head, revealing her bare breasts.
The car swerved violently.
“Jeezus Hannah!” He gripped the steering wheel hard, eyes locked on the road.
“Oh, come on, Tim. You know you want to look.” “No, I don’t wanna look.”
“Cos you know where it will lead.” “What the hell is wrong with you?” “What the hell is wrong with you?”
They sat for a moment in silence. Her breasts glowed in the dash light like twin peaks, a gold crucifix dangling between them at an impasse. Slim Dusty lamented about a pub with no beer.
Tim stepped on the brake and swerved into an oncoming rest stop. The battered Ford ute rolled to a stop in a swarm of dust and loose gravel. It had been a bloody long time. He looked across at the brunette next to him. She looked back at him from underneath long lashes, her taut breasts
heaving with anticipation. In that moment, he saw nothing but a woman who wanted him.
“What the hell,” he sighed.
Her grey eyes lit up. “You won’t regret this, I promise.”
Tim let out a long breath as she pounced on him with the vigour of a hungry predator. Sixteen-year-old fingers raked and scratched at his skin and before he knew what was happening his jeans were around his thighs, and she was straddling him, the old ute voicing its protest as she leant on its throaty horn more than once.
Afterwards, Hannah lit another cigarette. She sat back in the passenger seat, legs curled up, her head resting on the window. She blew smoke through her lips toward him luxuriously.
Tim tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He stared straight ahead. His fleeting gratification had quickly been replaced by guilt.
“This isn’t as risky for you as it is for me, y’know Hannah. I’m thirty- five. I could get in a lot of trouble for this.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m a consenting adult.” “Yeah right, tell that to your old man.”
“Can we please not talk about him right now?” Tim continued to tap.
“I gotta go pee.” Hannah pushed the car door open and walked topless to the roadside besser block toilets. Inside, a dying fluoro tube flickered insistently. Moths circled it excitedly.
A pair of headlights approached from the other direction of the highway. Tim involuntarily held his breath. His willing of the car to pass by seemed to have the opposite effect. It slowed and turned into the rest stop.
His heart rate elevated. It may just be a passing traveller. They would stop, take a piss, or smoke a cigarette and leave. It wasn’t certain that it was someone from town.
Tim considered driving away. But he couldn’t leave Hannah. They’d left the hall together; people would know that he hadn’t seen her home safely. Then he realized there was nothing odd about stopping for Hannah to use the toilet—the girl needed a piss! So what? But as his gaze fell on the red halter neck top on the seat next to him, he remembered that she had walked, with all the self-assurance and stupidity of her youth, from the ute to the toilet block half naked.
Tim stopped tapping and tightened his fists around the steering wheel as the car drew closer. He made a decision.
Seizing the red top, he balled it up in one hand and got out of the car. He strode toward the toilet block.
“Timothy Brown? Is that you?”
Hannah hadn’t really intended to seduce Tim Brown that night, but she was so tired of boys her age. The sex had been all right—she’d even managed to lose herself in it enough to forget about the vague animal smell that permeated the interior of the ute—however she took more pleasure in the power she had to give him something he could normally only wank over in his wildest daydreams. But now he was freaking out like a loser and it was boring.
She stared at her reflection in the buffed metallic square hanging above the sink. The warp in the metal made her head cone and her breasts look oversized. She squeezed the giant nipples with her fingertips. The slight tweak of pain caused her to smile. She felt like she had earned another victory. Her father was always preaching on Sundays that people should use the gifts God gave to them. As far as Hannah was concerned, her body was a gift and she intended to use it however she liked.
Outside, tyres crunched on gravel. Her state of semi-nakedness didn’t concern her. She would wait in a toilet stall until they went away.
She closed the black plastic toilet seat lid and sat down, examining the graffiti on the back of the door. Some of it she and other kids from school had written. Over the top of it all someone had recently scrawled, “Jesse is a cunt”. Another person had left a mobile phone number. She wondered who would answer if she called.
Voices floated in from outside between where the besser brick stopped and the tin roof began. It was Tim. He was talking to someone from the other car. It sounded like a woman.
When Tim realized it was Sheila, a combination of panic and familiar discomfort overcame him. She was driving an unmarked car. She’d been out on the highway all evening picking up speeding drivers.
“What’ya doing out here, Tim?” She was out of the car and standing about ten metres away from him. Her hands rested at her hips.
Tim tightened his fist around the red top, squashing it into the side of his jeans. “Just stopped for the men’s.”
“I see. You got company?” Tim shifted his weight.
“Tim? Who’s in there?” “No-one, far’s I know.”
“Uh-huh. And what’s that in your hand?”
“This? Just a rag I had in the back. Ute overheated a bit. Needed somethin’ to unscrew the radiator cap with.”
“Right. Give me a minute. Stay exactly where you are.”
Sheila crossed to the toilet block and went inside the women’s. It was deserted. She checked the stalls. Empty. The men’s was the same. Rubbing her eyes she sighed. Tim Brown was an ordinary-looking pig farmer who lived with his elderly mother. She’d known him since high school. She flushed slightly at the sudden memory of his stubby fingers up her skirt behind the tennis courts one lunchtime. He was inexperienced, but she’d been aching and turned on by the risk and, strangely, by the slight repulsion of him—he wasn’t a boy anyone was supposed to be with; he was a loner and sometimes smelt vaguely of his father’s piggery, an earthy mixture of mud, fresh hay and something sharper like ammonia. Clumsily, he’d got her to come, and when she saw him later that afternoon in maths class, his fingers were cupped gently on the desk and she saw him raise them to his nose and inhale deeply more than once. The sight had made her squirm in her seat and she’d felt a rush of shame. They’d never met like that again.
Two months later when she’d started dating Tony Spritz, Tim put his fist through a classroom wall. No one picked up on the connection.
But all that was twenty years behind them and right now it was getting late and she was tired.
“All right Tim,” she said, re-emerging. “I’ll be seeing you. Get that rust-bucket looked at in town, will you?”
She started towards her car, but suddenly turned on her heel. “Oh, while I think of it, you up for cricket on Saturday? Bob Schultz hurt his wrist installing an air-conditioner. They’re looking for reserves. You should give Malcolm a call.”
“Ah, might do. See how mum is.” “Sure, no worries. See you later.”
Tim watched Sheila’s car’s taillights completely disappear before he rushed over to the toilets. He hesitated at the open doorway of the women’s. Even after two decades, seeing Sheila always brought back a mixture of teenage embarrassment and frustration. It made him feel foolish. He doubted she even remembered.
“Hannah?” He said into the open doorway.
Like Sheila, he found the toilet block to be completely empty. He turned his attention to the nearby Mallee scrub. He scanned the fringes of the fluorescent glow. Disturbed birds rattled in their branches.
“Hannah? You out there? It’s all right. We’re in the clear.”
He waited a few more minutes before returning to the ute alone.
* “What the fuck took you so long?”
“Jeezus Hannah! What the hell?”
The teenager lounged impassively in the passenger seat, long legs resting on the dash. Breasts still bare.
“What the…? How the bloody hell…?”
“Shhhh,” she leant across and placed a finger across his lips. “Don’t get your knickers in a knot, Timmy. And give my top back for God’s sake.
Any one would think you’re some kind of perve carrying that around.” She snatched the red thing from his hand. “You lied to her.”
“Of course I lied to her! What else was I gunna do? Oh, sure, Sheila, go right in, there’s a half naked kid in there that I just fucked.”
“I’m not a kid!”
“You may as well be for all they’ll care!”
“Well you’re lucky I played along! I could have just turned it on and told her you raped me!”
“You wouldn’t do that!”
“Wouldn’t I? I am a kid after all. Children make up stories all the
Tim ground his teeth. This was spiralling into the biggest mistake of his life. “I need to get you home,” he said after a minute.
“Yes, please do. I guess that’s all I get for screwing an ugly old pig farmer who’s as fucking filthy as his animals. You probably fuck them too, for all I know. Love a bit of pork on your fork, hey Timmy?”
It wasn’t the first time he’d heard such taunts. He was single and had taken over the pig farming business when his father died. He’d known no other life. They’d been cruel to him in high school and all of his classmates that had, like him, stayed in the area never really grew out of their childhood meanness. He’d been the butt of many jibes at the pub. It was partly the reason why he kept to himself most of the time. His ailing mother was a convenient excuse.
He looked across at the smug smile spreading across Hannah’s face. The woman from earlier was long gone, and for a moment he was fifteen
again and she was just another mean girl who lead him on and then made a fool out of him. Just like Sheila.
“I dunno, Hannah,” he finally said. “Let’s find out.”
He seized her by the hips and lifted her skirt. As he unzipped his jeans, he enjoyed the look of momentary shock that rushed across her face.
Afterwards, it was quiet. Tim’s breathing began to return to normal and his vision cleared. He lit a cigarette, and breathed it in contentedly. He offered the pack to Hannah.
She sat on the passenger seat with her legs tightly crossed. She ignored the proffered cigarettes and pulled her red top on. Her breath made fleeting patches of fog on the window as she turned, chin first, away from him.
“Take me home, Tim.”
“No worries,” he said, and coaxed the old ute back to life.
In her bedroom, Hannah stripped off her clothes and stood in front of the full-length mirror on the back of her wardrobe door. Hot shame rushed over her, staining the space underneath her crucifix a deep shade of pink. The sight of her body suddenly repulsed her and she collapsed to the floor, knees pulled tightly to her chest to cover herself, as she cried scalding tears late into the night.
Tim killed the ute’s engine. The metallic crunch of the car door echoed against the tin walls of the pig-sheds standing across the house paddock as he shoved it closed and walked up the front steps.
Banjo, the old farm dog, lifted his head and wearily thumped his tail a handful of times on the wooden slats of the veranda as Tim approached the square of light thrown outside by the lounge room lamp. His mother was obviously waiting up for him.
Tim went inside and found her slumped in her recliner, crossword spread open across her lap. He walked over to her and folded away the newspaper. She came to as he kissed the top of her greying head.
“Sorry I’m late, mum. I drove Father Bailey’s girl home.”
“You’re a good boy, Timmy,” she said and squeezed his hand. “You’re a good boy.”
Something prickled in the back of his throat. “Sometimes, mum.”
By: Melissa Jaunay